The denial of Satan's reality usually takes the form of considering the idea of a satan as the personification of evil but not actually a being who has his own separate existence. The idea of "Satan" as a person developed more in New Testament times, and this necessitated, we are told, reinterpretations of the "legends" of the Old Testament, since, it is claimed, they do not contain the idea of a distinctive demonic figure. In addition, Iranian dualism, it is said, contributed to the Jewish idea of a personal Satan during the Greco-Roman period.  

 

 

I. EVIDENCE FROM THE TEXT


If one accepts the Scriptures as revelation from God, rather than merely a record of man's thoughts about God, then the reality of Satan cannot be denied. Satan did not evolve as a personal being; he existed and acted from the earliest to the last books of God's revelation. Seven books of the Old Testament teach his reality (Gen; 1 Chronicles, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah). Every writer of the New Testament affirmed his reality and activity. Christ's teaching also assumes and affirms Satan's existence and activity. In twenty-five of the twenty-nine passages in the Gospels that speak of Satan, our Lord is speaking. In some of those passages there can be no question of Christ's accommodating His teaching to the crowd's supposed ignorances or faulty concepts of Satan due to Persian dualism. Notice especially passages like Matthew 13:39; Luke 10:18; and 11:18.


Matthew 13:39

39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. NIV


Luke 10:18

18 He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. NIV


Luke 11:18

18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. NIV


 

II. EVIDENCE OF PERSONALITY


A. The Traits of Personality


Like the angels, Satan is said to possess the traits of personality. He shows intelligence (2 Corinthians 11:3); he exhibits emotions (Revelation 12:17, anger; Luke 22:31, desire); he demonstrates that he has a will (Isaiah 14:12-14; 2 Timothy 2:26).


2 Corinthians 11:3

3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. NIV


Revelation 12:17

17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring — those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. NIV


Luke 22:31-32

31 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. NIV


Isaiah 14:12-14

12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!


13 You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.  


14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." NIV

 

2 Timothy 2:26

26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. NIV


 

B. The Pronouns of Personality


Satan is referred to as a person in both Old and New Testaments (Job 1; Matthew 4:1-12). Notice that the information in this latter passage (the temptation of Christ) had to come from the Lord; thus He, by using personal pronouns, attributes personality to Satan.


Job 1

1:1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.


2 He had seven sons and three daughters,


3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.


4 His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.


5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, "Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." This was Job's regular custom.


6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"

Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."


8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."


9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied.


10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.


11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."


12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.


13 One day when Job's sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house,


14 a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby,


15 and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"


16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"


17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"


18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house,


19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"


20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship


21 and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."


22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. NIV


Matthew 4:1-14

4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.


2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.


3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."


4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 


5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.


6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"


7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 


8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.


9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."


10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" 


11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.


12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: NIV


 

C. The Moral Responsibility of Personality


If Satan were merely a personification that people have devised to express their ideas of evil, then such a personification could scarcely be held morally responsible for his actions, since, in reality, there is no being who can be held accountable. But Satan is held accountable by the Lord (Matthew 25:41), and this passage reminds us that to deny the reality of Satan requires denying the veracity of Christ's words.


Matthew 25:41-42

41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. NIV


 

III. HIS NATURE


A. He Is a Creature


Assuming that Ezekiel 28:11-19 refers to Satan (to be discussed later), that passage clearly states that Satan was created (v. 15). This means that he does not possess attributes that belong to God alone, like omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience. Though a mighty being, he has creaturely limitations. And as a creature he must be accountable to his Creator.


Ezekiel 28:11-19

11 The word of the LORD came to me:


12 "Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "'You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.


13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold;on the day you were created they were prepared.


14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.


15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.


16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.


17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.


18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching.


19 All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.'" NIV


 

B. He Is a Spirit Being


Satan belongs to the order of angels called cherubim (Ezekiel 28:14). Apparently he was the highest created angel (v. 12). Evidently this was the reason Michael, the archangel, did not dispute with Satan about the body of Moses (Jude 9). Satan may be called the archangel of all the evil angels. Even in his present, fallen state, he retains a great deal of power (though under the permission of God). Thus he is called the god of this world and the prince of the power of the air (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2).


Ezekiel 28:14

14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. NIV


Jude 8-10

9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"  NIV


2 Corinthians 4:3-4

4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. NIV


Ephesians 2:2

2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. NIV


 

IV. His Names


The number and variety of names given to Satan further support the reality of his existence.


Satan (used about fifty-two times) from the Hebrew, Satan, means adversary or opposer (Zechariah 3:1; Matthew 4:10; Revelation 12:9; 20:2).


Zechariah 3:1

3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. NIV


Matthew 4:10

10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" NIV


Revelation 12:8-9

9 The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. NIV


Revelation 20:2

2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.NIV


Devil (used about thirty-five times) from the Greek, diabolos, means slanderer (Matthew 4:1; Ephesians 4:27; Revelation 12:9; 20:2).


Matthew 4:1

4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. NIV


Ephesians 4:27

27 and do not give the devil a foothold. NIV


Revelation 12:8-9

9 The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. NIV


Revelation 20:2

2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.NIV


John records him as the evil one (John 17:15; 1 John 5:18-19). His evil character, indicated in this title, pervades the entire world, which is under his control. Yet the believer cannot ultimately be possessed by Satan.


John 17:15

15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.NIV


1 John 5:18-19

18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. NIV


A serpent was the way Satan first appeared to mankind (Genesis 3:1). This characterization sticks with Satan in the New Testament as well (2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9) and indicates his guile and craftiness.


Genesis 3:1

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" NIV


2 Corinthians 11: 3

3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. NIV


Revelation 12:8-9

9 The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. NIV


Satan is also depicted as a great red dragon (Revelation 12:3,7,9). This emphasizes his fierce nature, especially in conflict. Note that the dragon has a tail; thus our Halloween caricatures of Satan are not far off! An illustration: an older student, when asked by a younger student what kind of a teacher so-and-so is, might reply, "Oh, he's a bear!" The meaning is clear: that teacher is hard. Satan is a dragon. The meaning is clear: he is ferocious in his attacks against believers.


Revelation 12:3

3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. NIV


Revelation 12:7

7 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. NIV


Revelation 12:9

9 The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. NIV


One of Satan's activities is to be the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). He does this unceasingly - day and night. Of what does he accuse us? Of sins we commit. And, of course, he has an airtight case, for believers do sin, and any sin could undo our salvation. However, our Lord, our Advocate, defends us on the sole basis that all our sins were paid for by His death (1 John 2:1-2). Some, probably unconsciously, make a distinction between sins that could undo our salvation and those that would not do so-"little" sins. But any sin is enough to cause us to lose our salvation were it not for the constant intercession of our Lord that thwarts the constant accusations of our adversary, Satan.


Revelation 12:10

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. NIV


1 John 2:1-2

2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.


2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. NIV


One of my teachers years ago was H. A. Ironside. He always addressed us as "young gentlemen." When he came to this verse he would inevitably say, "Young gentlemen, Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Let's leave the dirty work to him."


Satan is also the tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5). This has been his work from his first encounter with human beings (Genesis 3:1). His temptation to Eve was to accept the counterfeit plan he offered that did not involve the restriction of not eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His temptation of Christ was to have the glory that was due Him without the suffering of the Cross. He tempted Ananias to lie in not disclosing the full amount of money his sale of land had brought (Acts 5:3). He tempts believers with immorality (1 Corinthians 7:5).


Matthew 4:3

3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." NIV


1 Thessalonians 3:5

5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. NIV


Genesis 3:1

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" NIV


Acts 5:3

3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? NIV


1 Corinthians 7:5

5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. NIV


Satan's position over this world is seen in several titles given to him. He is the "ruler of this world" (John 12:31). He is the "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4). He is the "prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2) and "the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience" (v. 2). He also deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9; 20:3). He resides in the air (equivalent to "the heavenly places" in Ephesians 6:12) and rules this cosmos as well as this age. The cosmos is that organized framework of things in which mankind lives and moves and that opposes God by eliminating and counterfeiting Him. The age (of which Satan is god) means "all that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations, at anytime current in the world, which it may be impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral, or immoral, atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitable to exhale - all this is included in the aion, which is . . . the subtle informing spirit of the kosmos, or world of men who are living alienated apart from God." That kind of rule over the world and atmosphere in which we live is awesome and fearful. Thankfully, greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).


John 12:31

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. NIV


2 Corinthians 4:4

4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. NIV


Ephesians 2:1-2

2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. NIV


Revelation 12:8-9

9 The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. NIV

Revelation 20:2-3


3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. NIV


Ephesians 6:12

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. NIV


1 John 4:4

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. NIV


The name Beelzebul designates Satan as the chief of the demons (Luke 11:15). When Jesus' enemies alleged that He was possessed by Beelzebul, they made themselves guilty of the worst kind of blasphemy.


Luke 11:15

15 But some of them said, "By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons." NIV


Paul uses Belial as a name for Satan in 2 Corinthians 6:15. The word means worthlessness or wickedness and aptly describes Satan's character.


2 Corinthians 6:14-15

15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? NIV


The various names and designations for Satan not only affirm the reality of his existence but also reveal his many-faceted character and aspects of his work. A name often reveals something about the person's background ("Scotty") or looks ("Red") or characteristics ("Lover") or activities ("Gopher"). So with Satan: his background (adversary, accuser, tempter), looks (dragon, serpent), characteristics (liar, murderer, ruler), and activities (accuser, tempter). He is a powerful, intelligent, clever creature, and we must never forget or underestimate the reality of our enemy.


Basic Theology by Charles C. Ryrie